Faulty flooring closes portion of Swinney Fitness Center

Kevin Bryce

The exposed concrete floor at the Swinney Fitness Center during construction
The exposed concrete floor at the Swinney Fitness Center during construction

UMKC’s public fitness center has been in disarray since the beginning of this semester. By the end of this week, the athletics center staff are hopes it will be fully operational.

But the new and improved gym isn’t without a cost. All this week, the free weight section is closed, and that isn’t sitting well with regular patrons of the gym.

“It’s really frustrating because I come five, six times a week,” third year dental student Blake Eyres said. “And it’s like what am I supposed to do [this] week? I pay money every semester to come to the rec center.”

Former UMKC student Bryce Blankenship became a paying customer of the Swinney Fitness Center in July and couldn’t understand why some of the equipment is taped off.

“After I had started paying for my membership, they took out all of the free weights to use and it kind of frustrated me for the fact that it didn’t seem like good planning on UMKC’s part,” Blankenship said.

The problem with the free weight section of the gym was the flooring.

“It was a rubber floor, and just from the dropping of weights, and the weight of the equipment…over the years it wore,” said Recreational Services & Facilities Director Marsha Pirtle.

The floor had worn so bad in the last 13 years it had become more than an issue of cosmetics.

“Part of it is a liability issue,” said Intramurals and Campus Rec Manager Tom Schultz. “The old floor basically was down to the concrete and we started putting duct tape over the damage and it got so bad that people would step in it and trip.”

The plan was to replace the old floor during the summer when there was less activity in the gym.

“The hope was that the floor would be finished before school started,” Schultz said.

A delay with the flooring supplier, Kiefer Specialty Flooring, Inc., prevented this from happening.

“They removed the old floor [but] when they unrolled the new floor, the new product, it was damaged,” Pirtle said.

At that point, there was a problem with how the athletics staff would move forward in offering students free weights as they began to arrive for the new semester.

Taped off exercise machinery
Taped off exercise machinery

“It was the beginning of school and so what we did is we gathered every piece of black matting that we had in the building and we took it to the fitness center in the free weight area and we put as much equipment in there as we could possibly do,” Pirtle said.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough matting in the gym to put beneath all of the equipment, so some of the equipment was put to the side and taped off.

“We had to have some type of matting for liability issues,” Pirtle said. “For example, if you put a piece of equipment on a concrete floor, it’s going to slide. If they drop the weights on the concrete, it’s going to damage the weights, and it’s going to damage the floor.”

Pirtle believes students have been compliant with the tough situation.

“They’ve been very understanding,” Pirtle said. “Once we explained what exactly happened with the product they’ve been very good.”

But it wasn’t explained so well to some of the students.

“Well first time they took the pads out was for a week, week and a half,” Eyres said. “And then we came back and it was like this [with taped off equipment] and now this whole area is going to be closed again for a whole week. It’s the worst timing.”

Due to the faulty product, the free weight section of the fitness center will be closed until the end of the week.

“And our hope is that the gym will be operational and functional by Saturday or Sunday,” Schultz said.

“It is just a matter of them coming in rolling out the new flooring and putting it down and then it has to be set for 72 hours,” Pirtle said.

Schultz and Pirtle alike understand it’s an inconvenient situation.

“We didn’t want to go this long without providing the service to the students,” Pirtle said.

But they believe in a week from now all this will be a thing of the past, provided Kiefer Specialty Flooring learns from their mistakes.

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